Friday, January 30, 2015



Fat: A big backflip underway

Up until a couple of years ago, we were all told that being  fat was bad for us. Then we heard that fat could be OK.  Now fat is positively GOOD for you.  Could there be any better evidence of government wisdom being often wrong?  In this matter, ignoring government pronouncements would clearly have been the wisest course

Because many diabetics are overweight, health crusaders have long argued that obesity causes diabetes -- ignoring the fact that most overweight people are not diabetic. But obsessive eating and drinking is a symptom of diabetes so the most reasonable conclusion is that diabetes causes obesity, not the other way around.  But never expect logic from people with a barrow to push


Fat can PROTECT you against obesity and diabetes, improving blood sugar control and metabolism, study finds

It has long been thought to be the enemy of the waistline. But fat can actually protect people against obesity and developing diabetes, scientists have today claimed.

Before reaching for a cream cake though, take note - it is 'good'  brown fat that is beneficial to the body, not white fat, which is amassed from gorging on too many calories.

Adults have a small amount of healthy brown fat, usually found in the front and back of the neck and upper back, which burns calories in order to generate heat.

In contrast, white fat is troublesome. It is the result of eating too many calories and is stored around the stomach, thighs and forms the dreaded love handle.

Brown fat, usually found in the front and back of the neck and upper back, can actually protect against obesity and diabetes, a study has found

A new study has revealed for the first time, those people with higher levels of brown fat have better blood sugar control, higher insulin sensitivity and a better metabolism for burning white fat stores.

The findings suggest the ability of brown fat to better regulate levels of sugar in the blood, could make it a potential medical weapon against diabetes.

SOURCE

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Employers Who Dump Workers onto Medicaid: The New Corporate Welfare Queens?

There have been a lot of predictions about the future of employer-based health benefits under Obamacare. Reports suggest that increasing numbers of small businesses are dropping health benefits and sending their employees to Obamacare's insurance exchanges, where they are partially subsidized.

Other businesses have found a bigger cost-shifting approach. BeneStream, a new benefits advisor, advises employers how to make their workers dependent on Medicaid, a welfare program fully funded by taxpayers. And businesses are taking advantage of its advice.

So: Are these employers corporate welfare queens? Well, it depends on how you look at it. On the one hand, Medicaid is welfare. It is disturbing to see Medicaid categorized as "health insurance" in the same way employer-based benefits or individually owned policies are. Nobody would consider someone in a homeless shelter to be "housed" in the way that someone paying rent or a mortgage is.

On the other hand, these employers pay corporate income taxes, which many economists consider double or triple taxation (because both the employees and investors have also paid income taxes). So, one way to look at their taking advantage of Medicaid could be to categorize it as a perverse sort of tax rebate.

Whichever way you look at it, it is not an outcome that the politicians who gave us Obamacare told us to expect.

SOURCE

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Study: 2014's Employment Boom Almost Entirely Due to the Expiration of Unemployment Benefits

Those who've listened to President Obama's speeches over the past couple months have heard him boast that 2014 has seen impressive improvements in the labor market - the best year in job creation since 1999, he points out, and he's right. But there's no obvious explanation for why 2014 has been, by a good margin, the best year of a weak jobs recovery. The president has naturally credited his policies (without any justification). But what if 2014's jobs boom is mostly thanks to the expiration of a program that the Obama administration and Democrats fervently pushed to renew?

That's the finding of a new NBER working paper from three economists - Marcus Hagedorn, Kurt Mitman, and Iourii Manovskii - who contend that the ending of federally extended unemployment benefits across the country at the end of 2013 explains much of the labor-market boom in 2014.

About 60 percent of the job creation in 2014, 1.8 million jobs, they find, can be attributed to the end of the extended-benefits program. That's a huge amount, and suggests that long-term unemployment benefits, while there's a good charitable case for them, could have played a big role in the ongoing lassitude of our labor market. (Indeed, an earlier working paper from a few of the same authors argued that extended benefits raised the unemployment rate during the Great Recession by three percentage points; see a summary of that paper here.)

So what was the program Democrats wanted to renew? States run their own unemployment-insurance programs, which provide around 26 weeks of benefits to people who've lost jobs and are looking for new ones. But during the recent recession, as they have in other downturns, Congress repeatedly authorized federal extensions that allowed people to draw benefits for much longer. At the end of 2013, the Senate narrowly passed a renewal of the program, but the House never took it up and the extensions, already much longer than any previous recession had seen, expired.

This created something of a "natural experiment." States had unemployment-insurance programs of widely varying length - they ranged from 40 weeks up to 73, roughly - but after the end of the federal extensions at the start of 2014, the duration of benefits in almost all states went back to around 26 weeks.

The paper uses that shift to examine how expiring benefits might have affected the labor market, and they find that the expiration of extended benefits produced a big boost to job creation, labor-force participation, and hiring. It's a dramatically different result than what the White House and Democrats were predicting at the end of 2013: The Obama administration was predicting that the drop-off in stimulative spending from the expiration would cost 240,000 jobs, while the NBER paper finds that it created 1.8 million jobs.

The authors don't think this happened the way you think it might: It's not so much that the cut-off drove individuals on benefits back to work, but more that less-generous benefits actually spurred job creation on a macro level, getting employers to hire and drawing into the labor force people who hadn't been looking for a job. They don't lay out how that worked, but in their October 2013 paper, argue that extended unemployment benefits artificially boosts wages - when they expire, employers then boost job openings and start hiring people.

Of course, the usual caveats apply: This is not a perfect experiment at all, and the paper, while very rigorous, can't get past the fact that it's just crunching numbers about macro trends. And there are some concerns with the authors' county-level data, though they try to make up for that.

The simplest form of the analysis was just looking at states that had long benefit terms versus short ones. In 2013, job creation was worse in more generous states than the national average; in 2014, after those states dropped their much more generous programs, it was much better than the national average:

There's a lot more analysis they did, which I won't get into - but to untangle related effects, they look at neighboring counties in states with different unemployment regimes, etc.

Now, this is just one paper and it involves some fancy econometrics, but it answers an unresolved question - why 2014 saw the labor market perk up (there's also a possible end-of-austerity explanation, but it's the labor market, not the economy overall, that's really improved noticeably).

It should prompt passionate supporters of the extended unemployment-insurance program to consider whether it made as much sense as they thought. Even conservative economists, such as Michael Strain, pushed for the extension of long-term benefits. The length and scale of benefits during the Great Recession was unprecedented, but advocates for the program argued that this was necessary so long as unemployment, and especially long-term unemployment, remained historically elevated.

Besides the moral case for supporting the unemployed, the market-friendly case for extending benefits is that one has to be searching for a job to get them. Cut the benefits, and you'll see the long-term unemployed drop out of the labor force for good, the argument went. (It's extremely hard to tell what did happen with these people when benefits expired, and the NBER paper here doesn't comment on that.)

Advocates for extended benefits also argued that it was just an effective form of stimulus for the economy, because recipients spend their benefits immediately. That was always a pretty lame case, since the program's value to the economy in spending terms - in the Obama White House's generous estimation, 240,000 jobs in 2014 - would probably be outweighed if either side's arguments about the labor-market effects proved mostly true. Indeed, if the new NBER paper is right, letting benefits expire produced 7.5 times as many jobs as the White House said it would cost.

The general economic consensus has always been that unemployment insurance slightly boosts the unemployment rate. Even liberal economists accept this, although they lampoon the idea that people might prefer benefits to working (that isn't the point, Paul - people act at the margin). But we still have unemployment insurance, of course, because we want a safety net for people in the event of job loss. That just has to be balanced against the costs that the program imposes on the labor market. The new NBER paper doesn't find that those costs in general are much higher than economists generally assume; rather, it suggests that the benefits of reining in long-term programs can be quite substantial.

There was always good reason to think this is the case: One of the many differences between American and European labor markets is that most of the latter have unemployment benefits systems of effectively unlimited duration - and much higher levels of structural unemployment.

SOURCE

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FDIC Changes Tactics in Response to Operation Choke Point

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has acknowledged its role in Operation Choke Point and is taking dramatic steps to reverse its policies in targeting legal and legitimate industries that are disfavored by the Obama administration.

"We're very pleased they've acknowledged their wrongdoing and they've accepted our suggestions to put in place measures to stop this activity," Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., told The Daily Signal in a phone call this morning.

Luetkemeyer, a member of the House Financial Services Committee and leader in the fight to end Operation Choke Point, met with FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenbery and Vice Chairman Thomas Hoenig earlier today as a follow-up to concerns voiced last November.

The Justice Department contends that Operation Choke Point combats unlawful, mass-market consumer fraud by "choking" their access to banking systems. But a report by the House Oversight Committee found the program's targets, under direction of the FDIC, included legal businesses such as short-term lenders, firearms and ammunition merchants, coin dealers, tobacco sellers and home-based charities.

To address concerned raised about Operation Choke Point, the FDIC will now require bank examiners to put in writing any recommendation or requirement for an account termination.

The examiner will also be required to indicate what law or regulation they believe the bank or the customer of the bank is violating.

The policy shift was announced today in an official Financial Institution Letter sent to all FDIC supervisory staff. In it, the FDIC states:

The FDIC is aware that some institutions may be hesitant to provide certain types of banking services due to concerns that they will be unable to comply with the associated requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). The FDIC and the other federal banking agencies recognize that as a practical matter, it is not possible for a financial institution to detect and report all potentially illicit transactions that flow through an institution.

The letter reiterates that decisions on accounts need to be made on a case-by-case basis and stresses they should not be made based on industry or moral objection.

The Daily Signal has reported multiple cases of legal business owners being dropped by their banks and payment processors simply because their industry is considered a "reputational risk."

Last December, a 20-page investigative report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee detailed FDIC officials working closely with the Justice Department to implement Operation Choke Point.

Emails unearthed by investigators showed employees scheming to influence banks' decisions on who to do business with by labeling certain industries "reputational risks," ensuring banks "get the message" about the businesses the regulators don't like, and pressuring banks to cut credit or close those accounts, effectively discouraging entire industries.

FDIC officials were also seen inserting their personal and moral opinions into banking decisions.

"The FDIC has allowed a culture within their agency to blossom that they believe it's OK to impose their personal opinions and value system in a regulatory way," says Luetkemeyer. "They are not a regulatory police-their job is to enforce the law."

Luetkemeyer left his meeting this morning pleased that the FDIC has implemented the majority of his proposed policy changes administratively, but says he still intends to move forward with a bill introduced last year that aims at ending Operation Choke Point.

Luetkemeyer says the FDIC also intends to work with the Justice Department's inspector general to investigate Operation Choke Point and hold those within the FDIC accountable for any wrongdoings.

"We're pleased that they're working with the [inspector general] so that they can change the culture of what goes on in their agency," he said. "But we're not going to take anything off of the table until we get this program stopped."

SOURCE

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For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Thursday, January 29, 2015


Leftists are cold bastards

The psychology of politics was my specialty during my research career and one of the most striking things I noted at that time was the way Leftist psychologists would spin ANYTHING they found in a way detrimental to conservatives.  So I occasionally showed how you could do some reverse spinning and pointed out ways in which the findings were detrimental to liberals.  The sort of data collected by political psychologists tend to be vague enough to make many interpretations equally feasible.  It probably needs to be like that.  Straightforward findings would likely be too uncomfortable to Leftists.

So the research reported below is rather fun.  The authors have definitely had a challenge in spinning the findings their way. From data with VERY contestable meaning they claim to have found that conservatives are "holistic" thinkers and liberals are "analytic" thinkers.  And they have to admit that both styles have their uses.

That amused me immediately.  Who are the great advocates of "holistic" thinking in the world today?  Alternative medicine freaks.  Not a notably conservative group.  So I think alternative interpretations of the findings are clearly called for.

I think a clue lies in the finding that liberals are extreme outliers in the human population.  Conservatives are more normal. Combine that with the finding that liberals are more socially isolated and I think you have a far-reaching conclusion:  liberals are emotionally cold.  Most of humanity values its relationships with others highly.  So do conservatives.  Liberals do not. Family is all in many human sub-groups but from Marx onwards Leftists have always despised the family.  And conservative Christians always stress the importance of family.

That liberals are emotionally cold can be summed up in a famous utterance by Stalin.  "One death is a tragedy.  A million deaths is a statistic."  That the great socialist murderers  -- Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong un -- were/are emotionally cold has great explanatory value.  How could they do what they did otherwise?

An abbreviated account of the study below plus the journal abstract


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Political conservatives in the United States are somewhat like East Asians in the way they think, categorize and perceive. Liberals in the U.S. could be categorized as extreme Americans in thought, categorization and perception. That is the gist of a new University of Virginia cultural psychology study, published recently in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

"We found in our study that and conservatives think as if they were from completely different cultures - almost as different as East and West," said study leader Thomas Talhelm, a U.Va. doctoral candidate in cultural psychology. "Liberals and conservatives categorize and perceive things differently, just as East Asians and Westerners look differently at the world."

According to Talhelm, political conservatives in the United States, generally, and East Asians, particularly, are intuitive or "holistic" thinkers, while Westerners, generally, and American liberals, in particular, are more analytical thinkers.

The so-called "culture war," he said, is an accurate if dramatic way to state that there are clear cultural differences in the thought processes of liberals and conservatives.

"On psychological tests, Westerners tend to view scenes, explain behavior and categorize objects analytically," Talhelm said. "But the vast majority of people around the world - about 85 percent - more often think intuitively - what psychologists call holistic thought, and we found that's how conservative Americans tend to think."

Holistic thought more often uses intention and the perception of whole objects or situations, rather than breaking them down to their parts - such as having a general feeling about a situation involving intuition or tact.

There is value in both ways of thinking, Talhelm said. Intuitive thinking likely is the "default" style most people are born with, while analytical thinking generally must be learned, usually through training, such as in Western-style school systems.

Psychologists test thought styles by giving study participants a short battery of tests to determine if they are holistic or analytic thinkers.

One such test asks participants to choose two of three items to categorize together, such as a mitten, a scarf, and a hand. Analytic thinkers usually match the scarf and mitten because they belong to the same abstract category - items of winter clothing. Holistic thinkers usually match the mitten and hand because the hand wears a mitten.

He noted that liberals in the West tend to live in urban or suburban areas and often have fairly weak social and community ties, move more often and are less traditionally religious. They are more individualistic than conservatives and very unlike most people in Eastern cultures.

Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to be more connected to their communities and may live in the same areas throughout their lives, maintaining strong social and familial bonds and commitments, and are more traditionally religious. This puts them more in line with the holistic-thinking majority of the world.
 
SOURCE
Liberals Think More Analytically (More "WEIRD") Than Conservatives

Thomas Talhelm et al.

Abstract

Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan summarized cultural differences in psychology and argued that people from one particular culture are outliers: people from societies that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD). This study shows that liberals think WEIRDer than conservatives. In five studies with more than 5,000 participants, we found that liberals think more analytically (an element of WEIRD thought) than moderates and conservatives. Study 3 replicates this finding in the very different political culture of China, although it held only for people in more modernized urban centers. These results suggest that liberals and conservatives in the same country think as if they were from different cultures. Studies 4 to 5 show that briefly training people to think analytically causes them to form more liberal opinions, whereas training them to think holistically causes shifts to more conservative opinions.

SOURCE


A personal note: I think that some people drawn to Leftist causes are genuinely compassionate and caring people who are VERY emotional about suffering they see in the world. They let their feelings swamp their thought processes.  But they are too soft to get far in Leftist politics.  It is the machine men like Joseph Stalin who rise to the top.  And Stalin very smartly killed off all the old Bolsheviks, some of whom would seem to have genuinely cared about the welfare of the average worker.

So the Leftist population is probably bi-modal -- comprised of two distinct groups:  the useful fools and the hard men lusting for power.  But no psychological survey would ever show that.  The hard men know the camouflage they need to wear and will present themselves as caring every time.  In my surveys I routinely found Leftists emphatically disclaiming many of the motives -- such as authoritarianism -- that we know to be typical of the Left.  The hard men are skilful liars.

So there is a balance to be sought in emotionality.  If you are too emotional in your reactions you are likely to be used as a tool by the hard men. What is needed is moderate emotionality.  And that is what conservsatives seem to have.  They can get emotionally upset about things such as abortion (I do) but they don't allow feelings to ditch their rationality.

I see myself that way.  Abortion horrifies me and triumphs of life (e.g. when the life of a very ill baby is saved) bring tears of joy from me.  But many things that bother other people (e.g. household accidents) get no emotional reaction from me at all.  I just deal with them.  So I am alexithymic about minor things but also sentimental about other things  -- life particularly.  It is a balance that seems to have served me well in living a contented and trouble-free life -- JR


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Michelle Obama meets Saudi Arabia's King Salman but opts not to wear headscarf

What a fuss the Left would put up had she been a Republican!  Instead:  Crickets

FOR first lady Michelle Obama, just a few hours in Saudi Arabia were enough to illustrate the stark limitations under which Saudi women live.

Joining President Barack Obama for a condolence visit after the death of the King Abdullah, Mrs Obama stepped off of Air Force One wearing long pants and a long, brightly coloured jacket - but no headscarf.

Under the kingdom's strict dress code for women, Saudi females are required to wear a headscarf and loose, black robes in public. Most women in Saudi Arabia cover their hair and face with a veil known as the niqab.

But covering one's head is not required for foreigners, and some western women choose to forego the headscarf while in Saudi Arabia.

As a delegation of dozens of Saudi officials - all men - greeted the Obamas in Riyadh, some shook hands with Mrs. Obama. Others avoided a handshake but acknowledged the first lady with a nod as they passed by.

SOURCE

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Released Illegal Alien Murders Innocent Store Clerk

President Obama has promised that his immigration executive actions aren't `amnesty.' He claims that his actions are nothing but an attempt to refocus manpower towards dealing with real criminals.  Apparently, crossing the border illegally isn't a `real crime.'

The President promises to increase enforcement along the border, but all we've been seeing is more of the same catch-and-release tactics that get Americans killed.

Don't believe me? I'd like to introduce you to Apolinar Altamirano. This 29 year-old illegal alien has been in and out of police custody for years. In 2012, he was arrested and CONVICTED of burglary. He was not deported and was subsequently let out of prison.



He was cited for trespassing at a convenience store on January 9th of this year and was subsequently served with an injunction for harassment a few days later.

If the Obama administration did their job and deported this criminal, as the law requires, they might have saved a life.

Instead, Apolinar Altamirano was released on bond. He promptly returned to the convenience store and allegedly murdered the store clerk over a box of cigarettes.

We hear about this far too often. How the Obama administration catches an illegal alien only to release them and allow them to murder, rape, or assault innocent Americans.

It's become so common that we've been desensitized to it.

The fact of the matter is that our immigration system is designed the way it is for a reason. Inevitably, illegal aliens are going to slip through the cracks. They are going to get in this country because politicians in both parties refuse to actually protect the border.

But eventually, they mess up. Eventually, they get caught speeding, drunk driving, or are arrested on lesser charges. The law says that they must be deported. Obama says the opposite.

Instead of using these lesser arrests as an opportunity to deport these criminal illegal aliens, the administration chooses to release them back into the population.

They had an illegal alien in custody who was CONVICTED of burglary. He was caught, arrested, and given a fair trial where a jury of Americans determined he was guilty.

If an American had committed the crime, they would still be in jail. But in Obama's America, illegal aliens get off.

Enough is enough. Newly elected Senator Joni Ernst put it simply: "We are legislators, the President is not, and we need to stop that executive overreach, and that includes executive amnesty."

Obama's executive amnesty has made it open season for illegal alien murderers, rapists, and violent criminals.

Instead of protecting the country and upholding the constitution - which Obama swore to do - he has opened the floodgates for illegal aliens to pretty much do whatever they want without fear of deportation.

The threshold for getting deported is now ridiculously high. I mean, look at this case. Apolinar Altamirano was caught on videotape murdering a store clerk. He also has a prior conviction.

Yet, Immigration officials are still debating whether he should be deported or not!  This is lunacy! I hardly recognize this country anymore.

SOURCE

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The liberal media's pro-abortion bias is out there for all to see

The Annual March for Life, which attracted over 200,000 participants from around the country, marked the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationally.

The response to this massive event from the big three networks?

ABC: 0 minutes
NBC: 0 minutes
CBS: .25 minutes

If these were a few dozen hipsters protesting corporate profits while taking selfies with iPhones, the networks would have wall-to-wall coverage.

But the media cannot be bothered to cover 200,000 pro-lifers who came to Washington in the middle of winter to march for the unborn.

It's shameful. If you're throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers, the media will provide sympathetic coverage to your cause.  If you're standing up for the most vulnerable in our society, the media turn a deaf ear.

With each passing day, the media continue to hemorrhage their credibility.

In response, twenty two leading pro-life organizations joined the Media Research Center to sign a statement chastising the networks for their near blackout of the 2015 March for Life.

Email from MRC

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For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Will this finally squash the anti-salt crusaders?

The latest  research report, appearing in a top journal (Abstract below), shows that eating a lot of salt does NOT  lead to high blood pressure, heart disease or early death. The bad effect of salt was a great theory but, like many theories, it was an oversimplification and wrong. I have previously noted several  other recent research reports that exonerate salt so I hope that this is now the end of the nonsense

Dietary Sodium Content, Mortality, and Risk for Cardiovascular Events in Older Adults

The Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study

Andreas P. Kalogeropoulos et al.

ABSTRACT

Importance
Additional information is needed about the role of dietary sodium on health outcomes in older adults.

Objective
To examine the association between dietary sodium intake and mortality, incident cardiovascular disease (CVD), and incident heart failure (HF) in older adults.

Design, Setting, and Participants
We analyzed 10-year follow-up data from 2642 older adults (age range, 71-80 years) participating in a community-based, prospective cohort study (inception between April 1, 1997, and July 31, 1998).

Exposures
Dietary sodium intake at baseline was assessed by a food frequency questionnaire. We examined sodium intake as a continuous variable and as a categorical variable at the following levels: less than 1500 mg/d (291 participants [11.0%]), 1500 to 2300 mg/d (779 participants [29.5%]), and greater than 2300 mg/d (1572 participants [59.5%]).

Main Outcomes and Measures
Adjudicated death, incident CVD, and incident HF during 10 follow-up years. Analysis of incident CVD was restricted to 1981 participants without prevalent CVD at baseline.

Results
The mean (SD) age of participants was 73.6 (2.9) years, 51.2% were female, 61.7% were of white race, and 38.3% were black. After 10 years, 881 participants had died, 572 had developed CVD, and 398 had developed HF. In adjusted Cox proportional hazards regression models, sodium intake was not associated with mortality (hazard ratio [HR] per 1 g, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.98-1.09; P?=?.27). Ten-year mortality was nonsignificantly lower in the group receiving 1500 to 2300 mg/d (30.7%) than in the group receiving less than 1500 mg/d (33.8%) and the group receiving greater than 2300 mg/d (35.2%) (P?=?.07). Sodium intake of greater than 2300 mg/d was associated with nonsignificantly higher mortality in adjusted models (HR vs 1500-2300 mg/d, 1.15; 95% CI, 0.99-1.35; P?=?.07). Indexing sodium intake for caloric intake and body mass index did not materially affect the results. Adjusted HRs for mortality were 1.20 (95% CI, 0.93-1.54; P?=?.16) per milligram per kilocalorie and 1.11 (95% CI, 0.96-1.28; P?=?.17) per 100 mg/kg/m2 of daily sodium intake. In adjusted models accounting for the competing risk for death, sodium intake was not associated with risk for CVD (subHR per 1 g, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.95-1.11; P?=?.47) or HF (subHR per 1 g, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.92-1.08; P?=?.92). No consistent interactions with sex, race, or hypertensive status were observed for any outcome.

Conclusions and Relevance
In older adults, food frequency questionnaire-assessed sodium intake was not associated with 10-year mortality, incident CVD, or incident HF, and consuming greater than 2300 mg/d of sodium was associated with nonsignificantly higher mortality in adjusted models.

JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 19, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6278

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Supreme Court hears Texas case that tests extent of civil rights doctrine

A sharply divided US Supreme Court on Wednesday took up a challenge to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in an action that liberal critics say could gut the major civil rights provision.

At issue in a case from Dallas, Texas, is whether the housing law authorizes lawsuits over racially neutral measures that nonetheless disproportionately impact minority residents.

Liberals support the so-called disparate impact theory of civil rights enforcement, while conservatives warn that such an approach could lead to racial quotas in housing and other areas.

The case has attracted significant attention, with friend-of-the-court briefs filed by various civil rights groups, 17 states, and 20 cities and counties. On the other side, briefs have been filed by a number of conservative groups and business associations, including insurance companies, banks, finance companies, and home builders.

The FHA prohibits anyone from refusing to sell, rent, or otherwise make unavailable a house or apartment to a person because of their race, religion, or national origin. There is no dispute about this aspect of the law.

After the FHA was enacted in 1968, federal courts and agencies began embracing a broader interpretation of the law's scope, concluding that, in addition to barring intentional discrimination, the statute also authorizes lawsuits when housing decisions disproportionately harm minority groups.

The case before the high court involves a lawsuit challenging decisions by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in awarding tax credits for low-income housing in Dallas. The Housing Department sought to provide new affordable housing in areas where existing housing was blighted or nonexistent. It sought to do so under race-neutral criteria.

Despite that goal, not everyone was satisfied with the agency's performance. A Dallas-based group seeking to foster racial integration, the Inclusive Communities Project, sued the Housing Department because it said the agency had failed to provide adequate opportunities for low-income housing in Dallas' more affluent suburbs.

The suit cited a statistical analysis that showed the agency approved disproportionately more applications for housing in minority neighborhoods than in more affluent white suburbs.

This selection and allocation of low-income housing units in the Dallas area was the functional equivalent of intentional racial segregation, the group charged. Regardless of whether the housing decisions were based on race-neutral criteria, the end result was a perpetuation of racial segregation, the ICP said.

The question at the Supreme Court is whether the Fair Housing Act authorizes such lawsuits based on disparate impacts, or whether the FHA requires litigants to prove there was an intentional effort to engage in illegal discrimination.

The hour-long case was presented after an unusual outburst in the courtroom at the start of the high court session on Wednesday. At least five protesters shouted out various slogans, including, "One person, one vote" and "We are the 99 percent." Court security officers restrained them and quickly ushered them out of the courtroom.

The protests were apparently timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the high court's January 2010 decision in the Citizens United case. In that case, the court ruled 5 to 4 that corporations and labor unions have a First Amendment right to spend money on issue advertisements during election season.

The justices' questions during oral argument in the Texas case suggest that the court's more liberal members favor the broader interpretation of the FHA, including allowing disparate impact liability, while the court's more conservative members are troubled by the implications of allowing disparate impact claims.

At one point Chief Justice John Roberts asked US Solicitor General Donald Verrilli which of the actions of a housing authority would be considered good or bad in terms of a disparate impact on minorities: revitalizing housing in a low-income area or making low-income housing available to help integrate more affluent neighborhoods?

Mr. Verrilli acknowledged that there might be difficult questions in such cases. And he conceded several times that the underlying allegation in the Texas case might not be a valid disparate-impact claim.

"But which [one] counts [when] you are trying to see if there's a disparate impact on minorities?" the chief justice asked. One benefits integration, he said, while the other benefits housing opportunities in low-income areas.

Verrilli said it is not enough to show a statistical disparity. He said the plaintiff must also demonstrate that a particular practice is resulting in a disproportionate impact on minorities.

Chief Justice Roberts persisted. "You say you look at which provision is having the disparate impact, but I still don't understand which is the disparate impact."

Verrilli replied that there must an analysis of whether there is a valid justification for the disputed practice.

"You're saying you need the justification, but for what?" Roberts asked. "Which is the bad thing to do: not promote better housing in the low-income area or not promote housing integration?"

Verrilli said that either justification might be an acceptable reason to dismiss a lawsuit.

But that response prompted a question from Justice Anthony Kennedy: "Are you saying that in each case that the chief justice puts, there is initially a disparate impact?"

"That may be right," Verrilli told Justice Kennedy.

"That seems very odd to me," Kennedy said.

Several justices on the liberal side of the court offered a vigorous defense of the disparate impact approach.

"This has been the law of the United States uniformly . for 35 years," Justice Stephen Breyer said. "So why should this court suddenly come in and reverse an important law which seems to have worked out in a way that is helpful to many people?"

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller said that the measure raised stark equal protection issues that could lead to the functional equivalent of a quota system in public housing.

In response to the chief justice's questions, Mr. Keller said a state housing agency could be held liable for disparate impacts under both scenarios.

"Here the department could have faced disparate impact liability if it was going to take tax credits and send them to lower-income neighborhoods or more affluent neighborhoods," he said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor offered perhaps the most persistent and aggressive defense of the disparate impact approach.

She disputed suggestions by the Texas solicitor general that enforcement of such claims would inhibit development in blighted areas.

"If I'm right about the theory of disparate impact, and I can tell you I've studied it very carefully, its intent is to ensure that everyone who is renting or selling property or making it unavailable is doing so not on the basis of artificial, arbitrary, or unnecessary hurdles," she said.

The case is Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project (13-1371).

A decision is expected by late June.

SOURCE

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Oxfam, capitalism, and poverty

(Oxfam is a British charity octopus with a heavy Leftist lean)

After Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century" told us about rising inequality, it's perhaps unsurprising that a new report from Oxfam tells us the global 1% will soon own half of all the world's wealth. But things are not quite as they seem.

Oxfam's figures look at net wealth, implying that Societe Generale rogue investment banker Jerome Kerviel is the world's poorest person, and Michael Jackson was afflicted by the direst poverty before he died.

Ivy League graduates about to start a job as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs are judged far poorer than rural Indian farmers with the tiniest amount of capital.

Seven point five per cent of the poorest tenth of the world live in the USA, the figures say, almost as many as live in India.

And the claim that 85 own as much as 3.5bn is even more misleading, since the bottom 2bn don't have nothing, but negative wealth-something like $500bn of it.

What's more the global 1% probably contains more Times readers than CEOs or oil sheikhs-you need own a house worth around œ530,000 to enter it.

All these facts skew Oxfam's figures to make them astonishingly misleading.

Better figures tell a completely different and far more optimistic story.

Global poverty has actually fallen enormously with the rise of global capitalism. The fraction of the world's population living on less than $2 a day (measured in constant dollars) has crashed from 69.6 per cent in 1981 to 43 per cent today.

Even if you take out India and China, where the most spectacular improvements have been made, and look only at Sub-Saharan Africa, the worst-off region, there have been improvements. From 1981-2006 8.6 percentage points fewer were living on under $1 a day and 4.9 percentage points fewer were living on under $2 a day.

In virtually every respect global poverty is falling and poor people are living longer, better lives. That is less sexy than Oxfam's claims, but at least it is true.

SOURCE

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Tolstoy Exposes the State

Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) is world-famous for having penned War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and other novels of nineteenth-century Russia, but the writer was also well-known in his day for criticizing government power and championing Christian libertarianism and pacifism. One of the best examples of his thinking on those topics is his often overlooked nonfiction book, The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1893), a work bursting with memorable insights. Although his economic reasoning is often flawed, Tolstoy has much to offer contemporary political thinkers, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs.

“He even makes an analyst such as [public choice theorist] James Buchanan, who often complained about people’s ‘romantic’ views of politics and the state, seem himself utterly romantic,” Higgs writes in the Winter 2015 issue of The Independent Review.

Here’s one of several quotable passages that Higgs found in the Russian writer’s unjustly neglected book: “Undisguised criminals and malefactors do less harm than those who live by legalized violence, disguised by hypocrisy.” Here’s another: “The good cannot seize power, nor retain it; to do this men must love power. And love of power is inconsistent with goodness; but quite consistent with the very opposite qualities—pride, cunning, cruelty.” More than a century later, Tolstoy’s insights about government power still sound fresh.

SOURCE

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For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015


The problem of the "peaceful" Muslims

Given the infernal nuisance that Muslims make of themselves, many of us would like to send them all back whence they come.  Let them murder one-another -- which they already do with great enthusiasm -- and leave us alone.

But there is the difficulty  -- constantly drummed into us by Leftists -- that the Jihadis mounting terrorist attacks in the Western world are only the tiniest fraction  of the Muslim population.  So is it fair to penalize the many for the deeds of the few?  That is the problem I wish to address.

Muslims are like Catholics.  They may regularly go to church/Mosque but they disobey much that their faith commands.  Catholics, for instance, almost all use contraception and get divorced if in a bad marriage.

And the commandments of Islam are even more onerous than Roman doctrine.  The slightest reading of the Koran -- and I read all of it in my teens -- will tell you that it is a supremacist religion.  White supremacism is way out of fashion now but religious supremacism is alive and well in the Koran.  And there are many Mullahs who energetically remind Muslims of their obligations in that direction.  They preach Jihad against non-Muslims with perfect Koranic justification.  And the Jihadis are in fact the obedient Muslims.  They do what the Koran commands.

But 99% of Muslims have enough brains to see that any hope of subjugating Western civilization is totally hopeless -- so do nothing towards subjugating anyone outside their own families.  But most DO harbour disrespect for Western ways.  They think that they, as Muslims are superior by way of having the true faith even if they are careful about how they behave.  But they do on occasions push their luck.  They wave placards and shout their silly slogans.  But once they start pushing or attacking people around them the police usually suppress them in some way.

Australia's main Muslim problem is with Lebanese Muslims. Many Lebanese Muslim young men make their feelings of superiority obvious in minor ways.  They make themselves obnoxious by pushing past peple without apology, harassing women etc.   And some of them of course join criminal gangs. The Sydney police have a "Middle Eastern Crime Squad" devoted to them.

The point to note, however, is that the hostility to the rest of us is there among Muslims generally even if they rarely have the guts to do anything about it.

And that is what justfies restraining action against the Muslim community in general.  They cannot be blamed for the deeds of the few but they can be blamed for providing the sea in which the jihadis swim.  They provide community support and encouragement to the jihadis.  The problem is the religion.

So a Western national leader might well address his Muslim residents as follows:

"Would you like to have a person hostile to you  living with you in your own house?  Obviously not.  And we in this country don't like to have living among us a class of people who are hostile to us.  And it is sadly clear that many Muslim people in this country are hostile to the rest of us and our ways.  Many  Muslims living in this country came to us as refugees or in search of a better life and we have always been glad to give a safe place to refugees and support opportunity for all.  But we expect gratitude for what we have done for such people, rather than hostility.  And we normally get that --  but not from Muslims on many occasions. So I say to you now: Either go back to a place and people you like better or abandon your hostility to us.  If you stay here we expect you to become one of us. We expect you to adapt to us rather than  us adapting to you

And we all know that your feelings of superiority and hostility to us originate in your religion.  What you do reflects the teachings of the Koran and what your Mullahs tell you.  So if you wish to remain among us you must change your religion.  You have six months to either depart these shores or instead develop a new religious affiliation.

To encourage that I am going to legislate that the restrictions  which presently apply to Christians in Saudi Arabia apply immediately to Muslims in this country.  That means no mosques and no Muslim activities of any sort.  As soon as the necessary legislation is passed, all mosques will become government property and will thenceforth be used for welfare housing only."

I apologize to those Muslims who do not feel hostile towards us  but many of you ARE hostile towards us and the government does not have mind-reading machines that could tell us who is hostile and who is not.  So to the only way to rid ourselves of hostile Muslims is to rid ourselves of all Muslims.  I wish you well as you return to your ancestral countries


The prohibition of Muslim practice would not of course pass constitutional muster in America under the freedom to practice your religion provisions of the First Amendment (or in Australia under Section 116 of the Constitution) but the command to depart almost certainly would. The First Amendment and its Australian equivalent protects religious practice for people living in the USA or Australia but it says nothing about who is permitted to live there.

I suspect that most Muslims born and bred in Western countries would take the option of changing their religion rather than lose the life they have become used to.  Any Muslims who failed to leave would of course have to be deported but all the Anglospheric countries have had plenty of practice at deporting illegal immigrants so deporting a few Muslims as well should not require much more in the way of resources in those  countries.  France and Germany would have bigger problems.

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Untrue Truisms in the War on Terror

V.D. Hanson

In the current tensions with the Islamic World, pundits bandy about received wisdom that in fact is often ignorance. Here are a few examples.

1)  The solution of radical Islam must come from within Islam.

Perhaps it could. It would be nice to see the advice of General Sisi of Egypt take root among the Islamic street. It would have been nice had the Arab Spring resulted in constitutional republics from North Africa to Syria. It would be nice if an all-Muslim force took on and defeated the Islamic State. It would be nice if Iran suddenly stopped stonings and Saudi Arabia ceased public whippings. It would be nice if Muslims dropped the death penalty for apostates.

Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that any of these scenarios is soon likely. Nor is there much historical support for autocracies and totalitarian belief systems collapsing entirely from within. Hitler was popular enough among Germans until the disaster of Stalingrad. The Soviet Union only imploded under the pressures of the Cold War. Mussolini was a popular dictator — until Italy’s losses in World War II eroded his support. The Japanese emperor only was willing to end the rule of his militarists when Tokyo went up in flames and the U.S. threatened more Hiroshimas. Only the collapse of the Soviet Union and its bloc pulled the plug on the global terrorism of the 1980s.

Until Muslims themselves begin to sense unpleasantness from the crimes of radical Islam, there is little likelihood of Islamism eroding. Were France to deny visas to any citizens of a country it deemed a terrorist sponsor, or to deport French residents that support terrorism, while weeding out terrorist cells, then gradually Muslims in France would wish to disassociate themselves from the terrorists in their midst. If the U.S. adopted a policy that it would have no formal relations with countries that behead or stone, Islamists might take note.

2) The vast majority of Muslims renounce terror.

True, current polls attest that grassroots support for Islamic terror is eroding among Muslim nations, largely because of the violence in Libya, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere that is making life miserable for Muslims themselves.

But if even only 10% of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims favor radical Islamists, the resulting 160-million core of supporters is quite large enough to offer needed support. Again, by 1945 most Germans would have polled their opposition to Hitler. But that fact was largely meaningless given the absence of action against the Nazi hierarchy.

In truth, the majority of Muslims may oppose Muslim-inspired violence in their homelands, but will do so abroad only if radical Islam diminishes the influence and prestige of Muslims. If terrorism does not, and instead another charismatic bin Laden wins the sort of fear abroad and popularity at home (cf. his popularity ratings in some Muslim countries circa 2002), then it matters little that most Muslims themselves are not actual terrorists — any more than the fact that most Russians were not members of the Communist Party or Germans members of the Nazi Party. Likewise, the idea that Muslims are the greatest victims of Muslim-inspired terrorism is not ipso facto necessarily significant. Stalin killed far more Russians than did Hitler. That Germans suffered firsthand from the evils of National Socialism was no guarantee that they might act to stop it. Mao was the greatest killer of Chinese in history; but that fact hardly meant that Chinese  would rise up against him.

3) There is no military solution to radical Islam.

Yes and no. The truth is that military action is neutral: valuable when successful, and counter-productive when not. In 2003, there were few terrorists in Iraq. In 2006, there were lots. Then in 2011, there were few. Then, in 2014, there were lots again. The common denominator is not the presence or absence of U.S. troops, but the fact that in 2003 and 2011 the U.S. military enjoyed success and had either killed, routed, or awed Islamists; in 2006 and 2014 the U.S. military was considered either impotent or irrelevant. U.S. military force is counter-productive when used to little purpose and ineffectively. It is invaluable when it is focused and used successfully. If the U.S. bombing campaign against the Islamic State were overwhelming and devastating Islamic state territories, it would matter. Leaving a Western country to join the jihad in Syria would be considered synonymous with being vaporized, and the U.S. would find itself with far fewer enemies and far more allies.  Otherwise, sort of bombing, sort of not will have little positive effects, and may do more harm than good.

4) Reaching out to Islam reduces terrorism.

It can. No one wants to gratuitously incite Muslims. But the fact that Mediterranean food and Korans were available in Guantanamo did not mean that released terrorists were appreciative of that fact or that the world no longer considered the facility objectionable. Obama’s name, paternal lineage, apologies and euphemisms have neither raised U.S. popularity in the Middle East nor undermined the Islamic State.

The 2009 Obama Cairo speech went nowhere. Blaming the filmmaker Nakoula Nakoula for Benghazi did not make the Tsarnaev brothers reconsider their attack at the Boston Marathon. The use of “workplace violence” and declarations that the Muslim Brotherhood is secular or that jihad is a legitimate religious tenet has not reduced Islamic anger at the U.S.

The Kouachi brothers did not care much that under Obama Muslim outreach has become a promised top agenda at NASA. Backing off from a red line in Syria did not reassure the Middle East that the United States was not trigger-happy. Had Obama defiantly told the UN that Nakoula Nakoula had a perfect right to be obnoxious while on U.S. soil, or had the Tsarnaev family long ago been denied entry into the United States, then Islamic terrorists might at least have had more respect for their intended victims.  Current American euphemisms are considered by terrorists as proof of weakness and probably as provocative as would be unnecessary slanderous language.

The best policy is to speak softly and accurately, to carry a large stick, and to display little interest in what our enemies think of our own use of language. The lesson of Charlie Hebdo so far is that the French do not care that radical Islamists were offended and so plan to show the cartoons any way they please. If they stay the course, there will eventually be fewer attacks; if they back off, there will be more.

5) We need to listen to Muslim complaints.

No more than we do to any other group’s complaints. Greeks are not blowing people up over a divided Nicosia. Germans are not producing terrorists eager to reclaim East Prussia, after the mass ethnic cleansings of 1945. Muslims are not targeting Turks because Ottoman colonial rule in the Middle East was particularly brutal. Latin Americans are not slaughtering Spaniards for the excesses of Spanish imperial colonialism.

Christians are not offended that Jesus is Jesus and not referenced as the Messiah Jesus in the manner of the Prophet Mohammed. The Muslim community has been constructed in the West as a special entity deserving of politically correct sensitivity, in the manner of privileged groups on campus that continuously suffer from psychodramatic “micro-aggressions.” That Muslims abroad and in the West practice gender separation at religious services or are intolerant of homosexuals wins greater exemption from the Left than a Tea Party rally.  If the West were to treat satire, parody and caricature of Islam in the fashion of other religions, then eventually the terrorists would learn there is no advantage in killing those with whom they disagree. Once Westerners treat Islam as they do any other religion, then the Islamist provocateurs will be overwhelmed with perceived slights to the point that they are no longer slights. The Muslim world needs to learn reciprocity: that building a mosque at Ground Zero or in Florence, Italy, is no more or no less provocative than building a cathedral in Istanbul, Riyadh, or Teheran.

SOURCE

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Uncovered California

Covered California, the Golden State’s wholly owned subsidiary of Obamacare, has been cancelling the coverage when people report changes in their income, changing their eligibility for tax credits. This problem exposes people to severe tax penalties but Covered California bosses blame it on their $454 million computer system. On the other hand, those turning 65 and going on Medicare find it practically impossible to cancel their Covered California deal. Covered California bosses blame this on the $454 million computer system, but it is probably a ruse to inflate the number of people Covered California can claim are enrolled. This kind of incompetence, waste and abuse are hard to top but as Emily Bazar of the Center for Health Reporting observes, Covered California appears to have pulled it off.

Bazar has been receiving notices from an “untold number” of consumers asking what coverage they qualify for, “if any.” She cites the case of Los Angeles writer Juniper Ekman, who dutifully applied during the first enrollment period with her husband and two-year old daughter. They began getting letters from Covered California, five or eight at time. Some letters said they did not qualify for tax credits. Then, last September, “I received 18 notices from Covered California in one day. Fourteen say we’re covered and four say we’re not. Which one should I believe?” No clear answer emerged, and Ekman is not alone. As Bazar notes, one Bay Area consumer received 40 notices in less than a month and in another case, “four people in the same household received four different eligibility decisions in the same notice.”

Covered California boss Dana Howard blamed the problem on the computer system. “This is the same system that has cost nearly half a billion dollars so far,” writes Bazar. The system may have helped “multitudes” apply for health insurance but “it also is responsible for countless glitches and widespread consumer misery.” That misery is inherent in the Obamacare system. Congress had to pass it for people to find out. If you don’t like the plan, you have to keep it.

SOURCE

There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

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For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Monday, January 26, 2015



Thaddeus Russell

A reader has directed my attention to the work of Thaddeus Russell.  He is a very iconoclastic historian who seems to enrage both Leftists and conservatives.  A lot of his writings appear in libertarian sources.

I have not read his book and doubt that I will have time to do so -- so if anyone wants to do a substantial book review of it I will be happy to put it up here.

I was not impressed by his recent article showing that it was mostly "progressive" legislators who were responsible for putting huge numbers of blacks behind bars.  I think it was the extraordinary rate of black crime that put huge numbers of blacks behind bars.

His main idea seems to be that the underclass has been a major driver of social change.  Underclass refusal to abide by rules laid down by the elites of the day have forced the elites to back off and allow more liberty.

Without reading his book, I don't know how good his evidence is for that but it does occur to me that the repeal of Prohibition is a good case in point.  The puritanical elite of the early 20th century were so dominant and powerful that they even got through a constitutional amendment to make America "dry".  Mere legislation was not enough.  It had to be a constitutional requirement

So what kicked that restriction to death?  It was the sheer disobedience of ordinary people -- some middle class but mostly working class.  In their "Speak-easys" they continued drinking.  Faced with the reality of Prohibition, Americans  rejected it  -- even though it took another constitutional amendment to do so.  Maybe the slowly dawning reality of Obamacare will have a similar effect.

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Typical Democrat hypocrite

Do as I say, not as I do

"Billionaire property investor Jeff Greene recently spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying he believes people in the United States need to stop aiming so high and start living with less. 'America's lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence,'

Greene, who ran for the Democratic Senate nomination in Florida in 2010, said in an interview.  The only issue Americans took with the 60-year-old's opinions was, well, everything, given he owns a $195 million palace in Beverly Hills, which has 23 bathrooms and a rotating dance floor, as well as four other blue ribbon properties, and is famous for throwing wild parties on a 145-foot yacht.



Greene, 60, is a billionaire property investor and entrepreneur. He made his money betting against subprime mortgages"

SOURCE

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Remembering the Last Lion

By Victor Davis Hanson

Fifty years ago this Saturday, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill died at age 90.

Churchill is remembered for his multiple nonstop careers as a statesman, cabinet minister, politician, journalist, Nobel laureate historian, and combat veteran. He began his career serving the British military as a Victorian-era mounted lancer and ended it as custodian of Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

But he is most renowned for an astounding five-year-tenure as Britain’s wartime prime minister from May 10, 1940, to June 26, 1945, when he was voted out of office not long after the surrender of Nazi Germany.

Churchill took over the day Hitler invaded Western Europe. Within six weeks, an isolated Great Britain was left alone facing the Third Reich. What is now the European Union was then either under Nazi occupation, allied with Germany or ostensibly neutral while favoring Hitler.

The United States was not just neutral. It had no intention of entering another European war – at least not until after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor a year and half later.

From August 1939 to June 1941, the Soviet Union was an accomplice of the Third Reich. Russian leader Josef Stalin was supplying Hitler with critical resources to help finish off Great Britain, the last obstacle in Germany’s path of European domination.

Some of the British elite wished to cut a peace deal with Hitler to save their empire and keep Britain from being bombed or invaded. They understandably argued that Britain could hardly hold out when Poland, Denmark, Norway the Netherlands, Belgium and France all had not. Yet Churchill voiced defiance and vowed to keep on fighting.

After the fall of France, Churchill readied Britain’s defenses against a Nazi bombing blitz, and then went on the offensive against Italy in the Mediterranean.

As much of London went up in flames, Churchill never flinched, despite the deaths of more than 40,000 British civilians.

By some estimates, the Soviet Red Army eventually killed three out of four German soldiers who died in World War II. The American economic colossus built more military ships, aircraft, vehicles and tanks than did any other country during World War II.

In comparison to such later huge human and material sacrifices, the original, critical British role in winning World War II is often forgotten. But Britain was the only major power on either side of the war to fight continuously the entire six years, from September 3, 1939, to September 2, 1945. Britain was the only nation of the alliance to have fought Nazi Germany alone without allies. Churchill’s defiant wartime rhetoric anchored the entire moral case against the Third Reich.

Unlike the Soviet Union or the United States, Britain entered the war without being attacked, on the principle of protecting independent Poland from Hitler. Unlike America, Britain fought Germany from the first day of the war to its surrender. Unlike Russia, it fought the Japanese from the moment Japan started the Pacific War to the Japanese general surrender.

Churchill’s Britain had a far smaller population and economy than either the Soviet Union or the United States. Its industry and army were smaller than Germany’s.

Defeat would have meant the end of British civilization. But victory would ensure the end of the British Empire and a future world dominated by the victorious and all-powerful United States and Soviet Union.

It was Churchill’s decision that Britain would fight on all fronts of both the European and Pacific theaters. He ordered strategic bombing over occupied Europe, a naval war against the German submarine and surface fleets, and a full-blown land campaign in Burma.

He ensured that the Mediterranean stayed open from Gibraltar to Suez. Churchill partnered with America from North Africa to Normandy, and he helped to supply Russia – even as Britain was broke and its manpower exhausted.

In the mid-1930s, Churchill first – and loudest – had damned appeasement and warned Europe and the United States about the dangers of an aggressive Nazi Germany. For that prescience, he was labeled a warmonger who wished to revisit the horrors of World War I.

After the end of World War II, the lone voice of Churchill cautioned the West that its former wartime ally, the Soviet Union, was creating an “Iron Curtain” and was as ruthless as Hitler’s Germany had been. Again, he was branded a paranoid who unfairly demonized communists.

The wisdom and spirit of Winston Churchill not only saved Britain from the Third Reich, but Western civilization from a Nazi Dark Ages when there was no other nation willing to take up that defense.

Churchill was the greatest military, political and spiritual leader of the 20th century. The United States has never owed more to a foreign citizen than to Winston Churchill, a monumental presence 50 years after his death.

SOURCE

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More on Churchill

Daniel Mandel

Churchill was guided by a few elementary ideas: that Britain and the Anglosphere more generally was a force for good; that its division and vacillation invited destructive forces to fill the vacuum; and that “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Together, they might even be called the Churchill Doctrine.

Today the Churchill Doctrine is denigrated or even despised in various polities, especially in Europe, but also here. Patrick J. Buchanan, for example, devoted an entire book to arguing that Churchill was largely to blame for both world wars and managed only to destroy Western civilization in the process. The late Christopher Hitchens before him also devoted a whole book to denigrating the Anglo-American relationship and its Churchillean bedrock –– but then converted to its mercurial advocate after 9/11 when he belatedly realized it might prove of some importance to fighting the radical Islam he detested. He even paid Churchill the tribute, “a lover of war and wine and brandy, genial in victory and unbowed in defeat.”

Hitchens’ turn is the exception. Those who disliked Churchill before 9/11 continue to do so. Likewise, Cold Warriors such as Reagan and Thatcher were cordially detested in their day. Britons will remember the Marxist firebrand unionist Arthur Scargill deriding “President Ray-Gun.” (Fewer will remember that Scargill also condemned Poland’s brave anti-communist trade union movement, Solidarity.) Here, the Democrat éminence grise Clark Clifford denigrated Reagan as an “amiable dunce.”

Contemporary political passions across a range of policies make denigration of a Reagan an easy trick. But Churchill cannot die so easily a death by a thousand cuts. In particular, his astonishing literary and oratorical attainments make it impossible for opponents of muscular anti-totalitarianism to level charges of stupidity. This has presented them with a problem. Diminishing the Churchill Doctrine has usually demanded more subtle portraiture: a whisky-sodden brooder, an unrestrained military enthusiast, an imperialist. And there is truth in all this, although these critics have also been unscrupulous, inasmuch as they do not acknowledge his corrective high sense of purpose and overriding desire to avoid still greater bloodbaths, whether in Europe or India.

Some are less scrupulous still. Michael Lind, writing in the British Spectator a decade ago, gleefully quotes Churchill from 1919, “I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.” Crows Lind, “citing Churchill to support Bush’s war to rid Iraq of alleged weapons of mass destruction was particularly ironic.”

In fact, the full quote reveals that Lind lifted two isolated sentences from a passage indicating the very opposite: Churchill believed in upholding the ban on Weapons of Mass Destruction but favored the use of non-lethal agents. Why? “The moral effect” said Churchill, “should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum.”

More significant than the sleight of hand and the implicit contradictions in Lind’s demolition job –– either the muscular anti-totalitarians are untutored militarists, or they wrongly claim descent for democratic and humane ends from a bloodthirsty imperialist –– is the clear urge to invalidate the Churchill Doctrine by besmirching the man as a potential war criminal.

Others have also tried to burrow into the doctrine. Radical British historian A.J.P. Taylor argued once to the late Churchill biographer, William Manchester, that Churchill’s Anglosphere “had few merits… he never considered how far England and America had been associated, which was very little, and — particularly — how far they could be associated in the future.” Yet post-war history has vindicated Churchill’s unfashionable view. Surely Korea, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq suggest the opposite?

What would Churchill counsel today for America if it had to stand alone? Here, we do not need to hypothesize. In 1938, at a dinner party, the American ambassador in London, Joseph Kennedy, an appeaser through and through, predicted to Churchill that England would go under in a fight. It drew from Churchill an impromptu oration that included these words:

    "It will then be for you, for the Americans, to preserve and maintain the great heritage of the English-speaking peoples. It will be for you to think imperially, which means to think always of something higher and more vast than one's own national interests."

This counsel is risky, hard to execute, and liable to earn unpopularity. But it remains the indispensable meaning of the Churchill Doctrine today.

More HERE

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ELSEWHERE

DoJ to recommend no civil rights charges in Ferguson shooting: "The Justice Department has begun work on a legal memo recommending no civil rights charges against a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., who killed an unarmed black teenager in August, law enforcement officials said. That would close the politically charged case in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The investigation by the F.B.I., which is complete, found no evidence to support civil rights charges against the officer, Darren Wilson, the officials said."

CO: Potential jurors want out of theater shooting case:  "Prospective jurors in the Colorado theater shooting trial presented a judge with a number of excuses on Wednesday for why they shouldn't be on the panel that decides if defendant James Holmes was insane at the time of the deadly attack. By the end of the second day of what promises to be a long slog to picking a jury, Judge Carlos Samour had excused at least 20 people who had doctors' notes, didn't speak English, or weren't residents of Arapahoe County, where the 2012 attack occurred. However, in a sign of how difficult it might be to get excused, a summons for a woman who reported being 'violently ill' and requested an ambulance was only delayed but not canceled."

Netanyahu to Address Congress:  "House Speaker John Boehner wasted little time in responding to Barack Obama’s absurd assertion in the State of the Union that “we’ve halted the progress of [Iran’s] nuclear program.”  To make the point that Obama’s living in an alternate reality, Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on Feb. 11, specifically on “the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life.” Boehner said, “There’s a serious threat that exists in the world and the president last night kind of papered over it.”  Boehner also added feistily, “[Obama] expects us to stand idly by and do nothing while he cuts a bad deal with Iran. Two words: ‘Hell no!’ We’re going to do no such thing.”

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For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Sunday, January 25, 2015


Will feminism produce great works of art?

DVDs are a wonderful thing.  I have a DVD recording a  performance at the Mariinsky theater in St Petersburg of the great ballet "Firebird".  The company is the Ballet Russes. I am far from a balletomane but the  wonderful music of Igor Stravinsky  gets me in every time.  And the reconstructed choreography of Michel Fokine is of course excellent too. It is no wonder that Firebird has a prominent place in the classical ballet repertoire.

And I couldn't help noticing that the chief ballerina (The Firebird) got thrown around an awful lot by the chief male dancer.  It was done with enormous athleticism and grace but there was no doubt who was the dominant character in the scenes concerned.  And it struck me that feminists would almost certainly find that repugnant -- with words like "patriarchy" and "inequality" popping into their addled brains.  Perhaps they think the ballerina should have thrown the larger male dancer about!

But Firebird is not alone in its representation of male/female roles.  A traditional representation of such roles is virtually universal in opera and in classical ballet.  So, having seen what artistic wonders traditional thinking can bring forth can we expect such art to emerge from feminist attitudes?  Feminism has been around since the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst and her girls over a century ago but I know of nothing notable that has emerged so far.  The only possible candidate appears to be the disgusting Vagina Monologues and they seem to be notable only for their crudity.

So my proposed answer to the question in my heading is a blunt "No".  Most prominent feminists are radicals and seem quite deranged most of the time. They seem to have no beauty in their souls.  And they don't care about women anyway.  They ignore the terrible plight of most women in Muslim lands and content themselves with nitpicking criticisms of everyday speech in their own country.

Fortunately most women are not feminists.  They believe in things like equal pay for equal work  but have little in common with the fountains of rage and hatred who are the radical feminists.  So what I have written above is in no way critical of women generally. I have been married four times so I clearly think women are pretty good.  And plenty of ladies find my views acceptable -- particularly ladies around my own age.

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Slavery via the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB)

I don't take as read the "unrepealability" claims below about the IPAB.  The authors of the legislation have certainly done their best to make it unrepealable but it is a basic principle of parliamentary government everywhere that no parliament can bind a later sitting of that parliament. The only way to bind a future parliament is via a constititional amendment.  And even that can be repealed -- as we saw with Prohibition.

Given the breathtaking remarks by Gruber and Ezekiel Emanuel, key architects of Obamacare, it behooves all Americans to be reminded of the overarching power that Obama has bestowed upon the Independent Payment Advisory Board or IPAB, a central feature of the ACA or inaptly named Affordable Care Act.

In June 14, 2012, Diane Cohen and Michael F. Cannon co-authored Policy Analysis No. 700 highlighting the egregious assault on the Constitution via IPAB.  Entitled "The Independent Payment Advisory Board: PPACA's Anti-Constitutional and Authoritarian Super-Legislature" it underscores the absolute dictatorial hold the government now has on all Americans.  The salient features of this report bear constant repetition and the need for the Republican-dominated Congress to act swiftly to repeal every single part of this law.

Obamacare gives "unfettered power to unelected government officials."  Actually it "bypasses the constitutionally prescribed manner by which proposed legislation becomes law" and even more frightening, the ACA "...attempts to prevent a future Congress from repealing IPAB."

Let's elaborate on this totalitarian and "unprecedented delegation of legislative, executive, and judicial authority in violation of the Separation of Powers doctrine."  In effect, Obamacare

*   automatically funds IPAB in perpetuity.
   
*   does not require the IPAB to be bipartisan.

*   has designated that the IPAB be made up of 15 unelected individuals; in fact, "the board may conduct business whenever half of its appointed members are present and whenever as few as eight members gather."  Actually, Obamacare would allow a "sole appointed member to constitute a quorum, conduct official business, and issue proposals."

*   authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to exercise the board's powers unilaterally.  This includes the "ability to appropriate funds to her own department to administer her own directives."

The stated mission of IPAB is to "prevent Medicare spending from growing faster than their specified target rate."  In other words, they will ration care and invoke death panels by denying life-saving medicines and treatments. In effect, the IPAB faces "almost no limitations on its power to limit, reallocate or regulate health care."  Beginning this year (2015), Obamacare gives IPAB "the power to impose price controls and to impose taxes and to ration care."  It is as simple as that.

Medicare payments to health care providers and private insurers participating in Medicare will be cut.  IPAB has the ability to threaten states by blackmail, i.e., it will require states to implement federal laws or enact new state laws in order to receive federal funding.

Those who would argue that the ACA prohibits rationing per se fail to see through the murky definition of rationing.  Thus, in Alice-in-Wonderland fashion, "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."  -- (Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)

Moreover, the IPAB can actually increase taxes and those who would argue that this is not possible, remember that the "PPACA specifically states that the Secretary's implementation of IPAB's proposals is not judicially reviewable."

In effect, Obamacare has nothing to do with enhancing health care; it has everything to do with controlling every aspect of Americans' lives.  Consequently, Obamacare "creates an unaccountable lawmaking body, and leaves elected officials with little to stop it."

And it does not stop with Medicare rationing.  IPAB "will have the power to ration or reorganize care even for those who are not enrolled in government programs."  And this power was always "the clear intent of IPAB's architects."  Price controls will surely be a component as the "board is likely to end up setting prices for all medical services."

And with malicious intent, Obama fought hard for IPAB over strong opposition from Congress which rightly understood that the IPAB was "usurping [Congressional] power."

IPAB's decision "will have the force of law."  And here is the crux of the despotic feature of this law.  Accordingly, "PPACA's authors included several provisions designed to prevent future Congresses, presidents, and courts from blocking IPAB's proposals."  Thus, there will be no accountability to the very people whose lives will be affected.

Obamacare exempts the IPAB from "any rule making requirement that Congress imposes on other executive-branch agencies."  Therefore, no hearings, testimonies or evidence from the public are required.

Even when he is out of office, Obama will be forever influencing America since, via the law, any future president's authority will be restricted.  Thus, the "PPACA unconstitutionally attempts to deny [a] president his constitutional prerogative to use his own discretion as to what measures he submits to Congress."  One may scoff at the constitutional scholarship of Obama but I submit he knows enough to trash the Constitution and it is never just a coincidence that all of his actions are aimed at the total destruction of this country's most important legal foundation.

And finally, Obamacare limits Congress' ability to make "any changes that would result in greater Medicare spending."  Consequently, Congress becomes inconsequential. And these are just the initial steps to the time when congressional interference with this heinous law becomes completely irrelevant.

Most terrifying though is that without GOP concerted action to repeal every scintilla of Obamacare, in 2020 Congress will lose all power to control IPAB.  According to the law,

"Congress may amend or reject IPAB proposals, subject to stringent limitations, but only from 2015 through 2019.  If Congress fails to repeal IPAB in 2017, then after 2019, IPAB may legislate without any congressional interference.

Moreover, if "Congress fails to repeal IPAB ... then after 2020, Congress loses the ability even to offer substitutes for IPAB proposals."  Thus, "to constrain IPAB at all after 2020, Congress must repeal it between January and August in 2017."

Is the GOP listening?  Will it act accordingly?  Will Americans be unrelenting in speaking up and demanding action to "resist this arrant tyranny?"

As we have come to expect from the most non-transparent administration in history, Obama and the Democrats "went to extraordinary, unconstitutional, . . . lengths to try to protect IPAB from. . . being repealed by future Congresses."  Henceforth, the Act states that Congress may only repeal IPAB if it follows these precise steps:

*   Wait until the year 2017

*   Introduce a specifically worded "Joint Resolution" in the House and Senate between January 1 and February 1

*   Pass that resolution with a three-fifths vote of all members of each chamber by August 15.

As Cohen and Cannon meticulously point out in their analysis, "the IPAB's constitutional infirmities are numerous."  In fact, "after 2017, Congress could repeal Medicare, but not the board it created to run Medicare.  Congress (and the states) could repeal the Bill of Rights.  But not IPAB."  Astounding!

Is this America? Or China?

Aaron Klein points out that "Obama has also established a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute with funding of $3.8 billion."  While a section of Obamacare states that  "the secretary of health and human services may not use research data ... in a manner that treats the life of an elderly, disabled, or terminally ill individual as lower in value than that of an individual who is younger, non-disabled, or not terminally ill" there is a qualifier which does allow the health secretary to limit any  "alternative treatments ... if such treatments are not recommended by the new research institute."  Thus the health secretary is given unlimited power to determine treatments -- think death panels, anyone?

Pundits wonder if we are entering a dictatorship.  I maintain we are already there.  The "government's control of America's health care sector closely tracks the predictions of economist Friedrich Hayek, author of The Road to Serfdom."  In essence, Obamacare, as always intended, is not "merely unconstitutional--it is anti-constitutional."  Until the entire law is dismantled and the IPAB becomes an acronym in a dustbin, this country will no longer be the America most of us love and cherish.

SOURCE

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Another open letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. Obama:

In last-night’s State of the Union address you said “And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it.  If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

The premise of your plea is mistaken: raises aren’t given by votes, by you, or by Congress: they’re given only by employers.  And employers must fund these higher payments out of the revenues they earn by competing successfully in markets.  Employers, therefore, can afford to raise their workers’ pay only if their workers become more productive - an outcome that is not achieved by a legislature waving its wand over workers’ paychecks.

You are, however, correct in one sense.  Because the policy you propose would price many workers out of jobs, that policy would indeed change these workers’ incomes: it would drop them to $0.  So I say this: If you truly believe you could be unemployed full-time and support a family on $0 a year, go try it.  If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America opportunities to work that they are now denied.  Abolish the minimum wage.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

SOURCE

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Woman Showcased by Obama in SOTU is a Former Democratic Campaign Staffer

Woman apparently the only economic success story in Obama's America

The woman whose story of economic recovery was showcased by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address is a former Democratic campaign staffer and has been used by Obama for political events in the past.

Rebekah Erler has been presented by the White House as a woman who was discovered by the president after she wrote to him last March about her economic hardships. She was showcased in the speech as proof that middle class Americans are coming forward to say that Obama’s policies are working.

Unmentioned in the White House bio of Erler is that she is a former Democratic campaign operative, working as a field organizer for Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.).

This also wasn’t the first time the White House used the former Democratic campaign staffer as a political prop. Obama spent a “day in the life” of Erler in June so that he could have “an opportunity to communicate directly with the people he’s working for every day.”

Reuters revealed Erler’s Democratic affiliations following that June event, and the Minnesota Republican Party attacked Obama for being “so out of touch with reality that he thinks a former Democrat campaign staffer speaks for every Minnesotan.”

Obama used Erler as an example that the economy is getting better.  Her political work goes unmentioned

SOURCE

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For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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